A visit to Dunedin is not complete without a trip on the Dunedin Railways (formerly Taieri Gorge Railway) Taieri Gorge Limited route – one of the world’s great train trips.
The Dunedin Railways (formerly the Taieri Gorge Railway and the Otago Excursion Train Trust) is an operator of a railway line and tourist trains based at Dunedin Railway Station in the South Island of New Zealand. The railway is a council-controlled trading organisation (formerly known as a local authority trading enterprise) owned jointly by the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Excursion Train Trust.
The Taieri Gorge Limited is New Zealand’s longest tourist railway and stretches along the former Otago Central Railway from the 4 km peg on the Taieri Branch, 18 km west of Dunedin, to Middlemarch, a distance of some 60 kilometres. Between Dunedin and the start of the line its trains operate on KiwiRail’s Main South Line via a running rights agreement.
The line travels through spectacular scenery along the banks of the Taieri River, through numerous tunnels and climbing along the Taieri Gorge to the Strath Taieri. It crosses a dozen viaducts, including the southern hemisphere’s largest wrought iron structure, and passes through ten tunnels.
At Wingatui Railway Station, the original building and signal box from 1914 has been restored and is one of the best remaining island platform stations in New Zealand. After the line passes through the 437 metres (1,434 ft) long Salisbury Tunnel, the longest on the line, it crosses Mullocky Gully over the 197 metres (646 ft) long Wingatui Viaduct, the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand since it was built in 1887. The 47m tall viaduct’s riveted lattice structure rests on seven concrete and masonry piers.
Shortly after Wingatui Viaduct, the route emerges from Mullocky Gully to join Taieri Gorge, and from then on follows that gorge above Taieri River to just east of Pukerangi. On the way the line passes former stations Parera, Mount Allen, Little Mount Allen, and Christmas Creek, crossing two curved viaducts at the latter two locations. Hindon, still operating as a crossing station, is typically one of the stopping points on the trip. Just before the station, the railway tracks share a combined road-rail bridge with Hindon Road, a local backroad.
Another popular stopping point for photo opportunities is the Deep Stream viaduct. Here the line slowly starts to climb higher and out of the gorge, passing over the Flat Stream viaduct, and “The Notches”, a section of short bridges and cuttings through several rocky outcrops, on its way to Pukerangi. Between Pukerangi and Middlemarch, the railway only once more comes close to the Taieri River, where it crosses Sutton Creek over another combined road-rail bridge.
In other words, if you love trains and beautiful, varied scenery, this is definitely something to add to your New Zealand travel list!